Black Hawk and UH-1N for Colombia
Black Hawk helicopters to be delivered as part of Plan Colombia to the south american country to boost fight against drugs. In the meantime more UH-1N will fill the gap
Helis, September 21, 2000 - Black Hawk helicopters going to Colombia as part of a $1.3 billion U.S. aid package to help fight drug trafficking to be delivered in 2002.
Clinton administration officials told Congress they hope to speed up delivery of the aircraft, a crucial component of the ``Plan Colombia'' package aimed at stemming the country's illegal drug trafficking and forcing a peace deal with Colombian guerrillas who profit from the trade.
``We want to get the helicopters as fast as we can,'' Brian Sheridan, a U.S. assistant defense secretary, told a House of Representatives International Relations Committee panel.
Sheridan said Pentagon officials were talking to the manufacturer, United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., about the delivery dates and configurations of the 18 Black Hawks to be sent to Colombia.
They are among 60 attack helicopters included in the aid package approved by the U.S. Congress earlier this year, which also provides training for special army battalions that will help efforts to destroy drug plantations and laboratories in guerrilla-controlled areas of southern Colombia.
Colombia's main rebel forces and key labor organizations have condemned the plan, saying it signals growing U.S. intervention that could inflame Colombia's three-decade-old conflict.
President Clinton visited Colombia in August to offer assurances that the package would not bring ``Yankee imperialism'' to Colombia, and Clinton administration officials told Congress that U.S. military units would not be drawn into a Vietnam War-like quagmire in Colombia.
``Each and every deployment order states, in no uncertain terms, that (U.S. Department of Defense personnel are not to accompany host-nation personnel on operational missions,'' Sheridan said.
The Black Hawks are a critical part of the aid package, intended to provide the mobility and air firepower needed for the anti-narcotics battalions. Rand Beers, an assistant secretary of state, said the first Black Hawks were scheduled to arrive in Colombia in October 2002, with the full 18-strong contingent there by May 2003.
An additional 15 smaller UH-1N helicopters, which are intended to provide interim air mobility until the Black Hawks arrive, will be in place by January 2001, he said. Eighteen UH-1N helicopters already are in Colombia.
``The delays we are hearing about today are alarming to say the least,'' said Representative Benjamin Gilman of New York, the Republican chairman of the International Relations Committee.
``How those choppers are configured and how other monies provided under Plan Colombia are spent will make a major difference in Colombia,'' he said.
Gilman and Indiana Republican Representative Dan Burton criticized the plan's emphasis on aid to the Colombian military instead of the national police, who they said have been more effective in battling the drug trade.
The police, Burton said, ``have a long track record of success in combating the narco-traffickers while the Army is new to this mission.''
The U.S. package also provides assistance for some of the hundreds of thousands of Colombia's internal refugees who have fled the violence, and funds to help demobilize and rehabilitate child soldiers recruited by the guerrillas.